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Carson Pass trail work

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Carson Pass trail work
July 19, 2019 09:36AM
I joined Ranger Chip Morrill and a Youth Conversation Crew from Generation Green to do trail work in the El Dorado National Forest around Silver Lake this last week. It was a good workout, we saw some terrific scenery, and got a ton of work done--much of it thanks to the six young people with loppers, shovels, and McCleods.

Day One we cleared the trail to Lake Margaret, using every one of those tools at one point or another on the 2.5 mile trail to the lake. The good news is that on the way back, all the work was done, and so we could enjoy the scenery of the hike a bit more.

Day Two focused on tree work around the Martin Meadows dispersed camping area, and then the lower two miles of the Horse Canyon Trail. This trail is part of a larger system around Silver Lake that we got to know much better on Day Three.

Day Three was epic--an eight mile loop through the lakes south of Silver Lake, including Hidden Lake and the Granite Lake group. We worked our way through deep banks of snow, huge deadfalls across the trail, lopping overgrown bushes, and improving trail drainage. And some of those trees were huge. The one at left was quite an effort.

It was fun to meet hikers on these trails, as they were so deeply appreciative of the work we were doing. That really made the kids' day/

On Day Four Chip and I worked through the two-mile Castle Point trail, clearing up some deadfalls, then joined the crew as they lopped their way to Shealor Lake. In the afternoon, the youth crew headed into the office, and I headed home.

The final score was a total of thirteen miles of trails cleared, which was a tribute to the work ethic of this crew. And I returned home with only minor scrapes, two bug bites, and a few sore muscles. And given the fun we had and the scenery we saw, it was all well worth it!

Photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/i4LmPTAMfZw54aSW8

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Carson Pass trail work
July 20, 2019 10:16PM
I joined Ranger Chip Morrill and a Youth Conversation Crew * * *

Methinks you meant "Youth Conservation Crew". Wanna talk about it?
Re: Carson Pass trail work
July 22, 2019 07:10AM
Ha! Gotta love autocorrect. Of course, if I could type, autocorrect wouldn't be an issue...

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Carson Pass trail work
July 27, 2019 09:18AM
I enjoyed my trail crew trip to Carson Pass last week so much that we went back this week to see more of the area. And while we ran into huge crowds at Carson pass itself, our hikes into Thornburg Canyon and Castle Point were blissfully lonely. We only saw a few people on the former, and all but two of them were within 500 yards of the trailhead. And we didn't see another soul on the Castle Point Trail. This despite the fact that the trail has the quickest payoff of any trail we've hiked: within about 300 yards you get a stunning view of the whole Caples Creek Valley, often including the Crystal Range west of Tahoe in the background. And from there, you wander along the crest of the ridge, looking down over precipitous cliffs, passing by an amazing collection of ancient junipers, and finding terrific views of Thunder Mountain on the other side. That's great value in the first mile.

Thornburg Canyon started with a waltz through a cornucopia of flowers for the first half mile, then great views from the top of the ridge. That's the view in the panorama above. And once we went over the ridge, we were alone. We camped on a bluff above the creek, in the breeze and above most of the mosquitoes. And we reveled in the sounds of nature--and nary another soul to see. Or hear.

We topped off the trip with a hike to Granite Lake along the Minkalo Trail--one that I had not seen before. It includes a lovely 40-foot waterfall, two delicious creeks, a few isolated glacial tarns, and Granite Lake itself. All this in a mile and a half from the trailhead. In fact, the most complicated part of this hike was finding the trailhead, which is unsigned for much of the route on the narrow roads behind the Kit Carson Lodge. There were a few hikers at the lake, but there was also plenty of room for us all.

Meanwhile, back at Carson Pass, there were hundreds of hikers on their way to Winnemucca and Round Top Lakes, in what must have been a very different kind of hiking experience. The parking lots were so full that cars were idling, waiting for a spot. And the USFS information office had a full staff of volunteers manning both the inside office and the table outside. Quite a contrast to what we saw on the trails a bit further afield.

Photos are here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/iYvhvnva8P7tGbcV6

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Carson Pass trail work
September 19, 2019 10:17AM
And then this time I bailed It was supposed to be a three day trip, but I bailed. First we were supposed to hike into Scout Carson Lake, where we would set up a spike camp and work on the Horse Canyon Trail. But with the weather report calling for a series of showers, Ranger Chip opted to play it safer and set up camp near Silver Lake. at the Silverado Camp. That's where I met him on Wednesday morning.

My day had started much earlier, when I got up before 5 a.m. (after teaching my class at the college the night before) and drove up to Silver Lake near Carson Pass. When I arrived Chip was just getting ready to hit the trail, so I threw a few things into my day pack and followed him up the trail. The weather was cool (50 degrees) and overcast, but there was no rain, and the showers were only predicted for the afternoon. But hiking uphill at a good pace quickly encouraged us to strip off a couple of layers on the way up.

After about two miles, we met the first group of young workers from the East Sierra Conservation Corps--a great group of young people from all over the US who had spent the summer doing trail work in the Sierra. This was their last week of work, and we were hoping to get most of the Horse Canyon Trail in shape. This is a big project, because the trail is open to mountain bikes and dirt bikes--and those can really tear up a trail that would normally stand up to simple foot traffic. Every section had to be overbuilt to withstand the impact of a dirt biker racing along. During the morning, Chip directed the six members of the ESCC on various projects along the trail, while he and I tackled others. At one point we were carrying large rocks between the two of us so that we could protect the exposed roots of some ancient junipers on the trail. These were large, flat slabs of granite, and I used some muscles that I hadn't used in a while...One rule about rock work--always choose rocks above the trail. It's much easier to roll them downhill than it is to carry or roll them up!

Lunch was chilly, as we sat among the rocks with the ESCC team and chomped down our food. There was just a hint of sunshine from time to time, and the showers we had seen were very light, or headed to the peaks north of us. So far, so good. In the afternoon, Chip suggested that we tackle a series of water bars on a long straight section of trail. (Water bars are angled dams that direct water and erosion off the trail and down the hill.) Again, given that these were going to get hammered by dirt bikes, they had to be built to last.

And as we worked on the first water bar, the rain showers became slightly more frequent, and heavier. By the second one, it was a steady cold rain, with temperatures in the low forties, and gusty winds--since we were working at about 8500 feet near the top of the ridge. Over the course of the next two hours. we watched the rain get more consistent, and the peaks above us disappear into the clouds, until we, too were enveloped in the mist and gusty winds. What fun! And it didn't get any warmer, either. At 3:30 Chip suggested that we begin to pack up and head down the hill. back to camp Most of the tools were left on the job site, carefully tucked into the shelter of some dense juniper trees, and we struck off down the hill at a brisk pace for what was now nearly a three-mile hike in the rain and wind. By the time we got down to Silverado Camp at 4:30, it was still raining, the temperatures were dropping, and I was soaked to the skin from the waist down. (Note to self: water resistant pants are not water proof. In fact, they are simply pants.)

I thought about what I had in the van. My hiking boots were soaked. I had clean, warm sock and undies, and I had brought along a nice warm sleeping bag. I had food and a stove. But the thought of spending a night in the van, hoping some of my gear would dry out, and then doing it all over again, had me thinking hard--especially because the weather report called for more showers the following day--and lower temperatures.

And so I bailed. I thanked Chip for a fun day on the trail, and he laughed. I congratulated the kids of the ESCC for being better people than I am. They were. And I got in the van and drove home, with the heater and defroster on high. I drove through another 25 miles of cold, miserable weather before I got down below the cloud cover. By the time I got to Sacramento, it was almost sunny, and I was toasty warm.

And today I read the weather report: Partly cloudy in the morning then becoming mostly cloudy. At lower elevations, a slight chance of rain showers. At higher elevations, a slight chance of rain showers in the morning, then a chance of rain and snow showers in the afternoon. Highs 43 to 58 higher elevations...57 to 67 lower elevations. Snow level 7500 feet increasing to above 8000 feet in the afternoon. Prevailing southeast winds up to 10 mph shifting to the west in the afternoon.

Check our our website: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/
Or just read a good mystery novel set in the Sierra; https://www.amazon.com/Danger-Falling-Rocks-Paul-Wagner/dp/0984884963
Re: Carson Pass trail work
September 23, 2019 07:40AM
As someone who lives out East, I really appreciate all of the volunteer work that goes into working on the trails. I always hope to run into trail crews when I'm out there. Hopefully, one day I'll live out there and will be able to contribute!
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